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Buck vs. Bell
Lee M. Silver's Remaking Eden and Dr. Leon R. Kass' Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity provide differing perspectives on the applicability of the issue of the case of Buck vs. Bell to today's society. In Buck vs. Bell, eugenics and Social Darwinism spurred a Supreme Court decision that allowed forced sterilization. In Remaking Eden, the perspective of Silver effectively argues that the case of Buck vs. Bell is not at all applicable to genetic issues today. Silver's optimistic stance on genetic engineering seems to indicate that human innovativeness and ingenuity will allow humans to successfully use genetic technologies to improve the world. In contrast, Kass' perspective suggests that the case of Buck vs. Bell is highly applicable to genetic issues today. Kass notes that even well-meaning and benevolent applications of technology can have devastating impacts on human dignity, echoing a theme found in the violation of the rights of Carrie Buck.
Early this century, the Supreme Court case of Buck vs. Bell upheld the West Virginia law that allowed forced sterilization of those who were considered "feebleminded." In the decision, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. noted, "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind...Three generations of imbeciles are enough." As a result of this decision, Carrie Buck was sterilized, as both she and her daughter, Emma, were deemed to be "feebleminded" (Syracuse University).
Interestingly, Emma, whom Carrie Buck gave birth to before her sterilization, did well in school. She made the honor role, and was a good student. As such, it appears that the sterilization of Carrie Buck was carried out on an incorrect diagnosis of "feeblemindedness." It appears that eugenics and Social Darwinism that underscored the Buck vs. Bell decision were ultimately based on a faulty understanding of genetics (Syracuse University).
There is more to the case of Buck vs. Bell than the simple misunderstanding of genetic principles, however. The sterilization of Carrie Buck and others like her was guided by society's belief that those who were deficient or inferior should not be allowed to reproduce in order to improve the human species. In Carrie Buck's case, it seems that "feeblemindedness" was the justification for her sterilization, but that other factors may have been at play. Carrie was young and presumably unmarried, and thus likely violated many social norms. Here, we see that Carrie's forced sterilization was driven by a number of factors, including a misunderstanding of genetics, her lack of adherence to social 'norms', and the desire to improve the human species through eugenics and Social Darwinism.
Today, forced sterilization is no longer allowed in American society. However, issues like genetic screening and the potential for genetic manipulation have raised new concerns. The perspective of Lee M. Silver, in his book Remaking Eden, suggests that the case of Buck vs. Bell is not at all applicable to genetic issues today. Instead, his optimistic stance on genetic engineering seems to suggest that human nature will allow humans to use genetic technologies to improve on the world as it exists today.
In Remaking Eden, Silver provides a largely optimistic look at the impact of technology in allowing humans to genetically engineer human life. A Princeton professor, Silver looks into the future of genetic engineering, and makes predictions about scientific advances that go beyond cloning. He also discusses a number of topics, including in vitro fertilization, cloning, and the point at which life can be said to begin.
Throughout the book, Silver suggests that humans will be able to move beyond their lack of understanding of genetic issues to use genetic engineering for the good of mankind. In these discussions, Silver attempts to clear up a number of misconceptions about genetic engineering. For example, he notes that clones will be no different from other people, and possess their own thoughts and opinions, rather than that of their parent. In this argument, he clearly negates the case of Bell vs. Buck, where a lack of understanding of genetics played a role in forced sterilization. As such, he suggests that the future will not be marred with such lack of understanding, and that humans will be able to make informed choices about genetic technologies.
Overall, Silver's look at genetic technologies is largely optimistic. He notes that the emergence of in vitro fertilization (IVF) marked an important point in human…[continue]
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"Buck Vs Bell Lee M Silver's Remaking" 09 July 2004. Web.24 October. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/buck-vs-bell-lee-m-silver-remaking-174595>
"Buck Vs Bell Lee M Silver's Remaking", 09 July 2004, Accessed.24 October. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/buck-vs-bell-lee-m-silver-remaking-174595